The topic of my presentation is Mary I, who was the queen of England and Ireland over the short span of merely five years, from 1553 to 1558.I chose Mary I as the topic of my presentation because I find her quite fascinating, her life being a series of somewhat contradictory events and acts – for instance, on the one hand, she is known for being England’s first female monarch; on the other, she is most remembered for executing nearly 300 Protestants, which earned her the posthumous sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”. Her unusual, complicated life and her short, but tumultuous reign sparked my interest and intrigued me, which led to me studying her life more in depth and, thus, finding her suitable to be the subject matter of this presentation.
Mary was born in Greenwich on the 18th of February 1516, as the fifth child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, but the only one to survive past infancy. During her childhood and early adolescence, she was given a remarkable education, becoming fluent in Latin, studying French and Spanish and, like her father, becoming an adept musician.However, her life was altered because of her father’s disappointment due to his lack of a legitimate male heir, which determined him to attempt to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled, claiming that the marriage was incestuous and unclean, as she was the widow of his brother, Arthur. Despite Catherine’s claims that her first marriage was not a valid one, as it had not been consummated, on the basis of which a previous pope, Julius II, had annulled it, Henry persisted on his separation from Catherine and, as Pope Clement VII refused to grant this annulment, he declared himself exempt from papal authority, breaking with the Roman Catholic Church and, therefore, establishing the Church of England, whose Supreme Head he declared himself. During this time, Mary was often sick and suffering from depression. In 1533, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, who bore him a daughter, the future Elizabeth I, thus effectively bastardizing Mary, who was forbidden access to her parents and stripped of her title of princess. However, when Anne Boleyn was accused of treason and beheaded and Henry married Jane Seymour, who urged her husband to make peace with Mary, the chance for reconciliation between Mary and her father appeared, but she refused to recognize him as head of the church.
Eventually, she did recognize Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England, repudiated papal authority, acknowledged that the marriage between her parents had been unlawful and accepted her own illegitimacy and, therefore, she returned to court, she was given a household suitable to her position and she was named as heir to the throne after her younger brother, the future Edward VI, Henry’s longed-for male heir born by Jane Seymour. After Henry’s death in 1547, Edward remained a minor for his entire six year reign and the lords of Somerset and Northumberland served as his regents and altered the order of succession in favor of the Protestants, placing Henry VIII’s niece, Lady Jane Gray, next in line to the throne. When Edward died in 1553, the Privy Council, pushed by Edward’s regents, did briefly acclaim Jane queen, but reversed course nine days later, due to Mary’s widespread popular support.
‘Once queen, Mary was determined to reimpose Catholicism and to marry Prince Philip of Spain, but both choices were unpopular among Protestants, who feared the permanent loss of Henry’s reforms, and among those who suspected a Spanish king would herald a continental takeover of England. Nevertheless, Mary moved forward with her plan, but her marriage with Prince Philip was not a successful one – although she was declared pregnant a short while after her wedding, she gave birth to no child and Philip found her unattractive and spent most of his time in Europe. Furthermore, Mary moved from simply reversing her father’s anti-catholic policies to actively persecuting Protestants. In 1555 she revived England’s heresy laws and began burning offenders at the stake. Almost 300 convicted heretics, mostly common citizens, were burned and, on account of the large number of religious persecutions which prevailed during her reign, she became known as “Bloody Mary”.After a visit from Philip in 1557, Mary thought she was pregnant once again, with a baby due in March 1558, and decreed in her will that her husband would be the regent during the minority of their child, but, just like the first time, no child was born and she was forced to accept the fact that Elizabeth was her lawful successor.
Childless, sick and deserted by Philip, Mary died on the 17th of November 1558, possibly from ovarian cysts or uterine cancer, and her hopes for a Catholic England died with her.Although Mary I had quite extreme ways of imposing her beliefs, I do still find her absolutely fascinating and I admire her strength and ability to ascend to power, despite the hostile conditions she found herself in.